IF Capitol can afford to give P20 million to Ondoy victims, why does it have to squeeze P5 from every commuter using the Cebu South Bus Terminal (CSBT)?

Is it not technical malversation to give P20 million from the provincial coffers when only P10 million was approved by the Provincial Board (PB)?

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These were some of the questions raised by Vice Gov. Gregorio Sanchez in his privilege speech entitled “In Defense of an Institution. His attempt to deliver this privilege speech two weeks ago got snagged because the PB couldn’t muster a quorum.

In his 45-minute speech, Sanchez threw innuendos at the PB, which he said is yielding its independence to Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia.

“There is a joke that politicians divide people into two classes; tools and enemies. I’d rather be Gwen’s enemy than be her tool,” he said.

Garcia’s allies in the PB said they are neither the governor’s tool nor enemy, but most of them defended her after Sanchez gave his privilege speech.

Sanchez discussed the non-renewal of the contracts of “Garcia victims” or 57 casual and contractual employees under his office on orders of the governor. He said hiring of PB personnel is his job and not Garcia’s.

So “by virtue of the powers vested in me as vice governor of Cebu,” he is re-hiring them.

He called Garcia a tyrant.

But PB Member Jose Ma. Gastardo defended the governor.

He said the contracts of the casual employees had expired and contrary to Sanchez’s claim, their services were not terminated.

Sanchez also alleged that financial aid to barangays is being withheld by the Provincial Treasurer’s Office.

But PB Member Wenceslao Gakit said some checks for financial aid were withheld because the barangay-beneficiaries have yet to account for financial aid previously

released to them.

Sanchez also lamented that his P11.5-million Legislative Assistance Fund (LAF) for 2010 will only be released, through the orders of the governor, on an unspecified date.

“Why does Garcia have to decide when our LAF has to be released? We gave her authority to spend millions. Why does she have to poke her fingers into our measly P2.5 million per PB member and my P11.5 million?,” he said.

“I will now direct the Provincial Treasurer to release the LAF of the PB,” he said.

PB Member Peter John Calderon explained that last September, a supplemental budget was passed so that half of the LAF of the vice governor and PB members for 2010 would be released in advance. The other half would not be released until after the elections for the next set of provincial officials.

Sanchez also answered Rep. Pablo John Garcia (Cebu, 3rd district) allegation that he had misused P900,000 in government funds.

“What is P900,000 for a road which can benefit barangay folks compared to nearly P100 million the executive spent in buying a property with mostly sea water which only tilapia can benefit?” he said, referring to the controversial purchase of the Balili Property in Tina-an, City of Naga.

Sanchez went on the question the P20-million aid for Ondoy victims when Garcia’s own constituents are paying P5 per entry at the south bus terminal.

“Most passengers are students and poor probinsyanos whose money is hardly enough to pay for bus fares,” he said.

“Why are struggling lawyers and Capitol visitors made to pay at the very least P20 just for a few minutes of parking?” he added, referring to the parking fees at Capitol.

PB Member Victor Maambong indirectly called Sanchez a fair-weather friend.

“I agree with some of your points. But collectively, we did not (oppose) this. When the weather was fair, we were very lax but now that a political storm is coming...” said Maambong.

Gastardo agreed, pointing out that no one from the PB, including Sanchez, had opposed the imposition of fees.

Both the entrance fee at the CSBT and parking fees were determined by the Economic Enterprise Council where Sanchez sits as an officer.

“We have accorded to Garcia billions of pesos in the bank. Is this not tyranny against the poor when in spite of the billions she still squeezes money from them?” Sanchez said.

He also questioned why P20 million was given to the Ondoy victims last Oct. 12 when only P10 million was approved by the PB on Oct. 5.

Calderon explained though that while the PB approved only P10 million, it decided to increase the amount on the recommendation of the governor and the Provincial Social Welfare and Services Chief Marivic Garces.

A session on Oct. 12 ratified the original resolution and another P10 million was added.

Lastly, Sanchez also questioned over P100 million in contracts entered into by the governor without authority from the PB.

Capitol spokesperson Rory Jon Sepulveda said Sanchez’s speech contained “misleading and imagined facts.”

“It was improperly titled. It was not in defense of an institution. It was in aid of his re-election. Grabbing the limelight in aid of your (Sanchez) re-election,” Sepulveda said of the speech which was aired live over dyDD, which Sanchez co-owns.

Sepulveda said Sanchez was supposed to be informed on the reasons for the P5 entrance fee at CSBT had he been attending the regular meetings of the Cebu Economic Enterprise Council (EEC), where he sits as vice chairman.

The EEC, he said, was delegated by the PB to fix the rates and charges on government facilities.

“It seems that the vice governor chose to exclude this information from the public. If he knows, then that’s intellectual dishonesty. It only shows that bakakon siya. (He’s a liar),” Sepulveda said.

On the matter of who has the authority to appoint casuals and contractuals under the PB, Sepulveda said Sanchez should raise this in court.(JGA/RSA)